Toldot (Genesis 25:9 – 28:9)

After the promisingly idyllic ending last week, we return to the narrative and its threads of crime, sin, deception, revenge, punishment, and other bad actions.  But before we throw up our hands in despair at all the shenanigans, consider this:

“Viewing Genesis as a book about the development of justice before the existence of a formalized legal system helps to explain why the narrative is so much about crime, sin, deception, revenge, punishment, and other bad actions.  The law evolves from bad actions and the way they are dealt with.  The common law is built on the wrongs, not the rights, of humankind…Thus the genesis of justice in the injustice of Genesis is not as ironic as it may appear…”  (A. M. Dershowitz, The Genesis of Justice (2000), pp. 211-2)

Toldot (generations) is mainly about a broken family.  There are a lot of gaps and missing information, so I think I’ll just give you some questions to think about.

Isaac:  What lasting effects did Isaac’s near-sacrifice have on him? Are the stories echoing his father’s experiences (unplugging wells, passing Rebecca off as his sister to Abimelech) typical father versus son competition, or maybe an effort to show he was indeed Abraham’s son, not Abimelech’s?

Isaac and Rebecca:  Isaac’s ruse is revealed to Abimelech when he catches him “playing with” Rebecca.  So at least at that stage they appear to have been together emotionally. What drives them apart? 20 years of waiting for a child (for which Isaac prays)?  Why do they never talk to each other in the text, except when Rebecca tells Isaac to send Jacob away to Haran to get a nice monotheistic wife?

Jacob and Esau:  Do they hate each other?  Jacob clearly doesn’t respect Esau, finding it so easy to swap a pot of lentil stew for the first-born’s birthright (which, having to do with a priestly leadership role, isn’t really to Esau’s liking anyway).  Did Esau respect Jacob at all?  Esau’s interests are physical and outdoorsy. Does he look down on Jacob? Does he think about Jacob at all?

The family:  What led to the family’s break up? It’s one thing to have a favorite son, but in this case, is the break into two parts so complete? Does Jacob have any relationship with Isaac at all, or Esau with Rebecca?

The deceit and blessing:  Did Rebecca ever tell Isaac the divine message sent to her before the twins’ birth, that the younger would serve the elder?  Did Isaac not see that Esau was unsuited to be the one to ensure continuance of the covenant?  Why did he favor Esau to such a degree?  Did he admire Esau for his self-sufficiency, his hunting prowess, maybe a resemblance to Ishmael?  Since blessing Esau was such a major event, why was Isaac planning to do this with no one else present? Jacob doesn’t argue with his mother when she presents her scheme. Have Jacob and Rebecca discussed such possibilities before?  Does Isaac actually realize the man before him, with the goat-skin-covered arms and neck, was really Jacob?  Could he not recognize that this one did not sound or speak like Esau, and that goat wouldn’t taste like venison (maybe the spices helped obscure that)?  Finally, does he realize Rebecca is lying when they send Jacob away, that Jacob’s life is in danger?

Sunday is Rosh Chodesh Kislev, so there’s a special haftarah, I Samuel 20:18-42, where David and Jonathan communicated via bow and arrows.  24 days after Rosh Chodesh is Chanukah.

Shabbat shalom,

Alabama Deer Hunting Joke

A group of Alabama friends went deer hunting and paired off in twos for the day. That night, one of the hunters returned alone, staggering under the weight of an eight-point buck. ‘Where’s Henry?’ the others asked.
‘Henry had a stroke of some kind. He’s a couple of miles back up the trail,’ the successful hunter replied.

‘You left Henry laying out there and carried the deer back?’ they inquired.

‘A tough call,’ nodded the hunter. ‘But I figured no one is going to steal Henry!’

tph twins evicted


tph twins bogo


From 2011:

Now this is what belongs in a reality TV show: [lightly edited]
Posted by
 BreeMPLS at

I have a small family, with just one cousin. She is about 5 years older than I. When she bought her first house and had a kiddo, she wanted to host Thanksgiving.  So we went to cousin Josie’s house. Highlights of the night:
1.        Cousin getting MEGA trashed and forgetting about any cooking or hosting. 
2.        Grandpa drunk in the corner and yelling slurs and racial epithets at any family member within range 
3.        Two Uncles nearly getting in a fistfight about the Presidential race (I think it was Bush v Clinton). 
4.        Mom yelling at me “YOU RUINED THANKSGIVING I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY. 
5.        One Uncle’s ex-wife sneaking smokes with me in the garage, hinting at naughty stuff. No thanks, lady! 
6.        Unattended baby smears poop EVVVVVVERRRYYYYWHERE 
7.        100% burned turkey. 
8.        Fire alarms go off 
9.        Fire department comes. Oven is fully engulfed in flames. 
10.        Nobody had anything to eat or drink other than cheap wine and Ritz crackers. 
11.        Grandpa insisted that we take him to Old Country Buffet, his favorite place ever, ever, ever.

Dysfunctional family Thanksgiving at Old Country Buffet. I haven’t seen some of those relatives since that day.


A bus of politicians is driving by a farm where a man lives alone. The bus driver, caught up in the beautiful scenery, loses control and crashes into the ditch. The man comes out and finding the politicians, buries them.

The next day, the police are at the farm questioning the man. “So you buried all the politicians?” asked the police officer. “Were they all dead?”

To which the man replied, “Some said they weren’t, but you know how politicians lie.”

Marriage Jokes

True Love

It may have been the most romantic statement ever uttered in our courthouse. In between hearings, a wedding was performed. As the newlyweds left the courtroom, the bride nestled up to the groom and cooed, “Isn’t it nice to be here when we’re not being convicted of something?”

The Birthday Present

On his birthday, my husband was stuck driving our six rambunctious children around. As usual, they were yelling, punching, and annoying one another. Joel finally had had enough.

“Kids,” he said over the din, “if you would behave and be kind to each other, that would be a very nice birthday present for me.”

Our six-year-old shot back: “Too late, I already got you another present.”

Right Answer

Jack wakes up with a horrible hangover and a throbbing black eye. The first thing he sees is a single rose on the side table and a note from his wife: “Dear, breakfast is made. I’ve gone shopping to make you your favorite dinner tonight. I love you!”

He stumbles to the kitchen and, sure enough, there’s breakfast. “Joe,” he says to his son, “what happened last night?”

“You came home soused and got that black eye tripping over a chair.”

“So, why the rose, breakfast, and sweet note from your mother?”

“Oh, that. Mom dragged you to the bedroom, and when she tried to take off your clothes, you screamed, ‘Leave me alone, I’m married!’”



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